Suspended this summer after police body cam video was released to the public depicting a Salt Lake City police officer repeatedly ordering his K-9 to bite a kneeling man with his hands in the air, the officer was recently charged with second degree felony assault.
On April 24, Salt Lake City police officers responded to a call concerning a domestic argument at the home of Jeffery Ryans. According to police body cam video, Ryans was standing in his backyard smoking a cigarette when the officers approached him for violating a protective order filed by his wife last December.
In the video, Salt Lake City Police Officer Nickolas Pearce ordered Ryans to get on the ground. Despite the fact that Ryans was complying and did not appear to resist, Pearce repeatedly ordered his police dog to bite Ryans’ left leg for no justifiable reason.
Ryans reportedly suffered nerve and tendon damage, infections, and has difficulty walking due to the multiple dog bites on his left leg. Doctors have not ruled out the possibility he will need to have his leg amputated, and he has gone through several surgeries in an attempt to repair the leg.
In August, Pearce was suspended from the Salt Lake City Police Department for his actions during the arrest. On Wednesday, Salt Lake County District Sim Gill announced that his office has charged Pearce with second degree felony assault because Ryans “wasn’t resisting arrest.”
In a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, Gill said, “He certainly wasn’t posing an imminent threat of violence or harm to anyone and he certainly wasn’t concealed. He was fenced in an area and was being compliant.”
On Wednesday, the Salt Lake City Police Department issued the following statement: “The department takes the District Attorney’s decision and the Civilian Review Board’s findings very seriously. Both will be evaluated and taken into account as the department is finalizing its Internal Affairs investigation.
“If Internal Affairs finds that Officer Pearce committed a policy violation, the chief’s office will follow the disciplinary process required under state and federal law. This can take some time, but we will carry this out as expediently as possible to bring a prompt conclusion to this matter.”
“As a result of this case, SLCPD’s use of the K-9 bite program continues to be suspended pending the outcome of policy and procedure reviews by both the department and the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a recent statement. “In addition, reforms requiring more thorough reporting and review of uses of force have gone into effect, which I believe would have ensured that this incident was handled when it should have been last April.”
If convicted, Pearce could face up to 15 years in prison.